Yet again, a recent travel experience reminded me about how far the field of massage therapy has come in the last few decades.
On a recent trip to Australia, my wife and I were on a sightseeing excursion near Melbourne. Seated across from us was a lovely couple who was also from the USA. Shortly into the trip, the husband casually asked if I was still working and what my profession happened to be. After I shared with him about PNMT, he asked several questions about the nature of what we do. As he did, I could see his wife, who was sitting to his right, lean in to hear more.
After a brief quiet pause where the two of them spoke to each other and my wife and I were enjoying the scenery, he reached across the aisle to tap my arm.
“May I ask you a question?” he interjected. What followed was a description of his musculoskeletal struggle, then his wife, an orthodontist, asked me multiple questions about her struggle with an upper extremity issue that affected her work. Like so many people, she worried about the trajectory of her condition. She had seen several physicians, but the answer she got was to wait to see if it gets worse over the next three months. That’s not treatment, that’s lack of treatment.
After our conversation, and yes, I do admit that I didn’t want to spend the trip talking about musculoskeletal pain, it did exemplify how far our profession has come. Both of these people were doctors, highly educated people who have the resources to utilize the healthcare system to its fullest. Yet, both were exceedingly curious about PNMT and how it might help them. Both were appreciative of explanations of the possible origins of their symptoms.
Connections like this make me realize how far we have come over the years. From public perception to openness from the medical profession, it is a long way from where it used to be.
Unfortunately, their next question reveals the current challenge.
“Can you find me a therapist in my area who understands these things and can help me?”
They probably saw my expression change at the question. There are simply too few therapists who can answer that call. Excellent therapists exist, but there just aren’t enough out there to meet the demand.
This is certainly true both in the seminar sphere and also in the clinic context. I used to be excited each time the phone rang, knowing we had the opportunity to help someone else. Now, I find myself cringing a bit, knowing that this caller is likely going to have to wait far too long to get in.
There are too few people going into the field, and from that number, too few are interested in highly specific approaches such as PNMT. I would posit, however, that the personal satisfaction of being in this field is a compelling reason for considering massage therapy and specifically PNMT as a career choice. Every day we get to use our hands, our head, and our heart in the service of people in pain. Not only will you grow professionally, but personally as well. At the end of the day, you can rest assured that you made a difference in the world and that someone’s life is better today because of your efforts.
External acknowledgments, such as the curiosity and acceptance from this couple, are truly markers that the outside world also sees the value in what we do. When I do presentations for other disciplines, the question is not whether the work will help, but when and how.
We’ve come a long way.